Corporations and businesses are made of bits called promises. The better the promise in and out, the stronger and more resilient the business.
While the mission defines the fundamental purpose of an organization and how it achieves what it set out to do, it is the vision that defines the way an organization or enterprise will look in the future.
The long-term view
I've been involved in teasing out the vision statement with senior business leaders at many organizations. On some occasions, after a merger or an acquisition, for example, facilitating the integration of the cultural nuances in both organizations would be crucial in seeing what is there, and what is still missing.
Vision and values are there to be owned and lived, as tied to the business promise.
Here are a couple of examples from prominent organizations.
Coca-Cola has 2020 Vision
Our vision serves as the framework for our Roadmap and guides every aspect of our business by describing what we need to accomplish in order to continue achieving sustainable, quality growth.
- People: Be a great place to work where people are inspired to be the best they can be.
- Portfolio: Bring to the world a portfolio of quality beverage brands that anticipate and satisfy people's desires and needs.
- Partners: Nurture a winning network of customers and suppliers, together we create mutual, enduring value.
- Planet: Be a responsible citizen that makes a difference by helping build and support sustainable communities.
- Profit: Maximize long-term return to shareowners while being mindful of our overall responsibilities.
- Productivity: Be a highly effective, lean and fast-moving organization.
How does it tie to the business?
In a recent interview published in Harvard Business Review magazine, Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent talks about shaking things up and lists as two key goals: 1) establishing a long term vision; 2) restoring growth in North America. The second depends on the first one. The first one depends on trading promises.
Like a Virgin
I believe that in the future we will be able to enjoy healthy and fulfilling lifestyles whilst minimizing the negative impact we have on the world -- is signed Richard Branson.
The company's statement is a bit broader:
We believe in making a difference. Virgin stands for value for money, quality, innovation, fun and a sense of competitive challenge. We deliver a quality service by empowering our employees and we facilitate and monitor customer feedback to continually improve the customer's experience through innovation.
In a 2007 TED Interview with Chris Anderson, Richard Branson talks about the ups and the downs of his career, from his multibillionaire success to his multiple near-death experiences -- and reveals some of his (very surprising) motivations.
He also talks about how: 1) companies are all about finding the right people, inspiring them, drawing out the best in people; and his 2) belief in the power of entrepreneurship and innovation to help us rise to the new challenges that we all face.
Business ties - we saw a couple of announcements from Virgin in the last few days:
- Virgin Media unveils a new, patriotic, UK logo
- Virgin Galactic opens commercial spaceport
- Branson puts etihcs at core of Virgin bank plan
About having so many companies under one brand umbrella says Branson: In a sense we are a commonwealth, with shared ideas, values, interests and goals.
Spelling it out
Some companies actually spell out their brand promise. For example:
- 3M -- Practical and ingenious solutions that help customers succeed
- Verizon of MD -- We bring the benefits of communications to everybody
Is a promise statement considered legally binding?
When it reflects how the business intends to use the model to trade in the long term, a vision statement is quite powerful.
A company in the data business keeps a promise that when you outsource part of your memory to them, they will care for it, preserve it, give you the ability to retrieve it will by keeping it on and backing it up.
A better in and out promise would be a conversation around giving you usage data back, warning you when you're using too many voice minutes, showing you ways to optimize your data plan, giving you the ability to track your calls over time, including blocking numbers -- in an easy-to-use format.
My trade is connections with meaning. My vision statement is reflected in everything I do, starting with the name of my company -- I am a Conversation Agent -- and how I participate in social networks.
What do you trade on? Do you have a vision statement? Are visions statements living up to their word? Which are your favorites?